Alternatives to 4-Year College Degrees

There are many options to increase your earning potential with alternative post-secondary education. Explore available programs that put you in control of your future.


Many students choose not to attend a traditional 4-year institution for post-secondary education and some careers don't require a 4-year degree. These options may allow you to earn while you learn and will give you the skills you need to move forward in your chosen career path. In this article, we will explain some of the choices you have and give you resources to find out more.


Apprenticeships


An apprenticeship is a career pathway that gives you paid work experience, classroom instruction, and credentials that qualify you for jobs in a specific field. You will be paid to work a job in your chosen field but receive supervision and instruction until you are skilled enough or credentialed enough to work independently. This is a great choice for students that are looking to earn a salary right away and are interested in a specific trade such as cosmetology, construction, landscaping, healthcare, and more. Find more career choices and which ones offer apprenticeships here.


Apprenticeships are a great choice for students who are looking to earn a salary right away and are interested in a specific trade such as cosmetology, construction, landscaping, or healthcare.

One resource for finding high-quality apprenticeships is Colorado.gov's Apprenticeship Info Page. Here you will find 400+ registered apprenticeship programs that are verified by the State of Colorado.


When looking at apprenticeship programs is is important to consider:

  • The time it will take to complete the apprenticeship

  • Location of the work and instruction

  • The cost of supplies and tuition

  • The delivery method of instruction, some courses are offered online, while others require time in a classroom

  • If there is an option for receiving college credit


Professional Certificates


A professional certificate prepares you for a specific career and typically takes less than two years to complete. They are a great option for students looking to start working soon after high school graduation and can often be completed around a part-time or full-time work schedule. Certification costs are typically between $5,00.00 and $15,000.00 and can lead to licensing that may be necessary for your career. Certificates are offered at trade, career, tech, vocational and community colleges as well as some 4-year colleges. Colorado Mountain College, a local option for Western Slope students, has many professional certificates to choose from.


Nearly any career can benefit from certification but certificates in bookkeeping, computer repair, automotive repair, education, hair styling, electrical, plumbing, and nursing are among the many offered. Certificates can be a valuable substitute for experience when applying for entry-level positions in your chosen field and may lead to an increase in your starting wage.


Certificates are offered at trade, career, tech, vocational and community colleges as well as some 4-year colleges.

If you choose to pursue a professional certificate you will want to research which certificates are standard and the most widely recognized in the industry you choose and ask questions before enrolling.


Questions to ask when comparing professional certificate options:

  • Will this program help me with job placement upon completion?

  • Are internships and time spent on the job paid?

  • What is the cost of supplies and materials?